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Katko, Balter each see positives in latest poll

U.S. House of Representatives/Julio Urrutia

The latest poll looking at the race for central New York's 24th Congressional District race shows Democrat Dana Balter with a slight lead over incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus). Each candidate sees advantages in the poll, but Katko's support of President Trump is a clear liability.

The poll, conducted by Siena College/Syracuse.com, showed Democrat Joe Biden leading Trump by 19 points among voters in the district, which covers all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties, and the western part of Oswego County, and it could be eating into Katko’s traditional support. That’s the view of Balter, who’s running in her second race against Katko.

"I think it’s because of Katko’s support of Trump’s agenda, and Katko’s unwillingness to stand up to Trump when we need him to," Balter said.

Katko, who endorsed Trump's reelection in January, and continues to do so, wants voters to separate the president’s personality, and his policies.

"It’s not so much my support of the president, quite frankly. I don’t like his personality. And I’ve told him," Katko said this week. "I’ve told him to stop I don’t know how many times, tweeting and all that.  But really it’s a choice between where are we going, and the direction of the country."

Both candidates expect a close race down to the wire, and each has been pointing to numbers in the poll that are positives for their campaigns. 

While Balter has a large lead in the city of Syracuse, it's outside the city where she sees exciting numbers.

“In Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne Counties, we’re tied.  And I think that is a very big deal," she said.

Those have been Katko strongholds in the past. And Katko emphasized a five-point lead over Balter among independent voters in the district.

"And I’m the only Republican in the entire country, and comfortably so," he said "And that’s a bellwether here, because there are a lot of independents in central New York."

However, that number is down dramatically from his independent voter support in the last election. A Siena poll released in October 2018 showed Katko with a 13-point lead among independent voters in the district.

Another number that may be worrisome to Katko is the number of his supporters that plan to vote for Biden.

"While zero percent of Balter voters are supporting Trump, 13% of Katko supporters say they’re voting for Biden,” Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said. "These are voters that Katko needs to hold onto and likely increase if he wants to win reelection. And it is a group that Balter likely needs to try and woo back to her side if she wants to hold or increase her narrow lead."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.